The Eye of Satan Is Watching You From Space

Illustration for article titled The Eye of Satan Is Watching You From Space

Repent, sinners! SATAN EXISTS! And his evil eye is looking at you from space! I mean, if there is an Eye of God* in space, there has to be an Eye of Satan in a permanent staring contest, right?

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At least, it looks like a really evil eye to me. It's a photo of the central region of NGC 4151, a spiral galaxy 43 millions light years away from Earth. It's one of the nearest galaxies with a growing supermassive black hole.

This photo is a composite made from X-ray images (blue) from the Chandra X-ray Observatory combined with optical data (yellow) from the 1-meter Kapteyn Telescope on La Palma and radio observations (red) by the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array.

According to NASA, the fierce X-ray activity "probably was caused by an outburst powered by the supermassive black hole located in the white region in the center of the galaxy." The observation of this galaxy is bringing great information about how supermassive black holes interact with the matter around them.

If the X-ray emission in NGC 4151 originates from hot gas heated by the outflow from the central black hole, it would be strong evidence for feedback from active black holes to the surrounding gas on galaxy scales. This would resemble the larger scale feedback, observed on galaxy cluster scales, from active black holes interacting with the surrounding gas, as seen in objects like the Perseus Cluster.

Ah, I love evil astronomy porn.

Illustration for article titled The Eye of Satan Is Watching You From Space
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* The Eye of God is the popular name of this image, not the name given by NASA. Its real name is NGC 7293 or the Helix Nebula, the remnants of a star that will eventually become a white dwarf. The image is a composite from the Hubble's ACS instrument and images from the Mosaic Camera on the WIYN 0.9-m Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, on the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert.

DISCUSSION

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I absolutely love that high res pic of the helix nebula. It was my desktop for several years. The detail is fantastic, and the scale is extraordinary. Each one of the cometary knots is about the size of our solar system.

In relation to this post, I think the infrared photo taken by Spitzer deserves a look, too. It gives a third eye: the Eye of God, the newly minted eye of Satan, and the Eye of the Machine. Reminds me of The Terminator. Or 2001. Or any of 50 other movies with red eyed machines.